[ID] => 10227
[post_author] => 34
[post_date] => 2018-10-18 09:44:32
[post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-18 08:44:32
[post_content] => For many in the chemical supply chain, the idea of ‘intermodal’ transport conjures up images of containers and tank containers switching between rail and road. But in some parts of the world, the use of inland waterway transport offers a third and very important leg to the concept of intermodalism. This is especially true in the port areas of the Benelux countries, where rivers and canals provide a very useful way of moving goods to the industrial hinterland – especially at a time when road congestion is continuing to get worse.
Barges are a common sight in the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, bringing in containers to load onto deepsea vessels, taking delivered boxes away, and shifting cargo between terminals. However, it has become increasingly apparent that the current situation is far from ideal, with many barges spending much of their time light on cargo and having to make multiple moves within the ports to discharge and load containers.
As such, earnings in the barge sector – where much of the capacity is either independent or skipper-owned on behalf of larger players – have been low for some time, and insufficient to support the long-term health of a sector that is vital to the efficient operation of the ports themselves.
ROADMAP FOR WATERWAYS
The Port of Antwerp is now taking steps to improve matters. Last month it began a pilot trial of a new system to encourage greater efficiency in container barge transport, in effect imposing a benchmark for efficiency by requiring all barges calling at container terminals to make at least 30 container movements (on, off or on/off) per call.
The Port of Antwerp explains the purpose of the trial thus: “A roadmap has been drawn up to ensure sustainable growth of container barge transport in the port, with structural, feasible solutions to make the chain of transport more efficient. All the parties involved have committed themselves to fast implementation.”
To achieve efficiency gains, those in the supply chain will be required to collaborate in terms of planning barge movements and to consolidate container volumes. Digitisation will be needed to provide the tools and information necessary to put it all into practice. “The interplay of all these measures should create new growth opportunities for container barge transport and raise the efficiency of all partners in this transport chain,” says the port.
The first step towards Antwerp’s goal is the consolidation of container volumes so as to avoid the need for barges to tie up at the deepsea terminals to offload just a few boxes. This will require the bundling of containers at ‘consolidation hubs’, both within the port of Antwerp (on both sides of the Scheldt) and on barge waterways in the hinterland. This will involve the participation of ports such as Genk, Ghent, Moerdijk, Meerhout, Oosterhout and even Duisburg, as well as others.
The Port of Antwerp says this will provide advantages for players at all stages of the supply chain. Barge operators will make fewer terminal calls per port all, enjoy shorter turnaround times and more efficient freight movements, and make more efficient use of their resources and equipment. Similarly, for terminal operators, the aim is to allow more efficient planning and handling of barges calling at the dock, make more efficient use of resources and equipment, and generate higher productivity. An important outcome should also be faster and more reliable handling and transit of containerised goods for shippers and freight forwarders.
To help container barge operators make the transition to larger call sizes, the Flemish government and the Antwerp Port Authority are making financial support available on a temporary basis.
Backing this up, efficient planning and collaboration by barge and container terminal operators will lend more structure and transparency to the planning process in terms of the scheduling of barge movements. That transparency will lead to the smoother movement of barges through the major ports and allow terminals to guarantee minimum barge handling capacity.
The Port of Antwerp is also trialling an online Barge Traffic System (BTS), a unique slot request and monitoring system for barge and terminal operators. Barge operators send a request to the terminal operator via BTS and terminal operators draw up a schedule of loading and unloading operations, making it available to barge operators via BTS.
This pilot project involves the participation of terminal operators PSA, MSC and DP World. Its aim is to simplify the entire planning cycle, making it more efficient. The Port of Antwerp describes it as a “unique initiative that will be continued in future, if evaluation is positive”. It will also allow active collaboration between barge operators in order to make their own planning processes more efficient.
The advantages of this aspect of the overall project include more accurate planning and communication for barge operators, through a uniform and transparent procedures. This should lead to shorter turnaround times as timeslots will be more realistic, further adding to asset productivity.
For terminal operators, realistic scheduling and monitoring of terminal operations will allow rapid and accurate adjustments to loading and unloading operations and allow any scheduling conflicts to be identified well in advance.
GET IT ONLINE
The entire process as envisaged by the Port of Antwerp will rely on digitisation and the centralisation of data, to permit proactive scheduling and monitoring. This aspect of the project is being led by NxtPort, which will introduce a number of new digital applications. “The focus is on sharing information at an earlier stage, so that all parties can achieve gains in efficiency,” says the Port of Antwerp.
If successful, Antwerp’s project promises enhancements to port turnaround times not just for barges but also for the deepsea container vessels that are using terminals in Antwerp. There are also obvious advantages for the container terminals themselves, which should be able to speed throughput.
More fundamentally, though, greater efficiency and transparency in the movement of containers by barge should have the added benefit of giving shippers and freight forwarders greater confidence in the use of this mode of transport, encouraging them to move more freight off the already congested road network in northern Belgium.
And the benefits cannot come soon enough. In the first three quarters of this year, Antwerp reported a 6.8 per cent increase in the throughput of containers to 8.3m TEU; Marc van Peel, port alderman, commenting on the third-quarter figures, said: “Sustainable growth for our port is possible only if we make sure that it remains accessible to people and goods. We are assuming our responsibility on this front, together with the port community. On the goods transport front, we are aspiring to a modal shift by 2030, with a drop in goods transport by road and an increase by rail and inland navigation.”
[post_title] => Barges: Down by the riverside
[post_status] => publish
[comment_status] => open
[ping_status] => open
[post_name] => barges-down-by-the-riverside
[post_modified] => 2018-10-18 09:44:32
[post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-18 08:44:32
[post_parent] => 0
[guid] => https://www.hcblive.com/?p=10227
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